TUCSON, Ariz. – One thing is certain: None of B.J. Denker, Javelle Allen and Nick Isham is Matt Scott.
So don’t expect on-the-money passes all the time; don’t expect a certain crispness when it comes to knowing the ropes at quarterback; don’t expect nearly 30 touchdown passes and more than 3,500 passing yards.
Replacements don’t typically do that — although Scott came close last season in what appeared to be a seamless transition in replacing former UA quarterback Nick Foles.
“None of the guys have Matt’s arm. Matt had an NFL arm,” Arizona quarterbacks coach Rod Smith told reporters. “That’s something you’ll miss. You kind of get accustomed to seeing that every day and expecting that all the time. These guys aren’t Matt. These guys have to be their own selves and play to their strengths.”
What those are will be determined more this spring as Arizona continues workouts throughout the next month before finishing with a scrimmage on April 13.
Until then, UA head coach Rich Rodriguez will search for the QB he thinks will lead his team best.
“It’s not a competition between the quarterbacks. For us it’s more about, can he do it?” Rodriguez said. “It’s not comparing them to someone else. Nobody’s going to win the job in the spring, but they can show us that we can win with them. I think that’s a key difference. If you’re good enough to win with, you’ll play.”
Rodriguez said the coaches will “put a lot of pressure on them” in the spring to simulate the pressure they will face in the game.
Arizona’s top three choices are the aforementioned Denker, a senior who was last year’s backup; Allen, a redshirt freshman; and Isham, a transfer from Louisiana Tech. Jesse Scroggins, a junior college transfer who started his career at USC, is out for spring ball after recent surgery on his foot. And true freshman Anu Solomon, a potential starter down the road, won’t be here until the summer.
“It’s a friendly competition, and we’ll boost each other up to get better,” said Allen, a 6-foot-2, 218-pounder from Prosper, Texas.
Denker, a 6-3 left-hander, could have the early advantage in that he has some game experience from last season, filling in for a then-injured Scott. He passed for 259 yards, connecting on 25 of 37 passes, and played in six games, starting against Colorado after Scott suffered a concussion.
Does he feel he’s the leader going in?
“Not at all,” he said. “It’s a competition. I don’t want it to be handed to me. I want it to be a competition. I want to earn it. That’s my mindset.”
And competition makes everyone better, he added.
Austin Hill, last year’s top wide receiver who caught 81 passes for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns, said he likes what he sees in Denker.
“B.J. was good last year, and I feel he caught onto the system pretty quick, but Matt was a great quarterback,” Hill said. “But B.J. could have could have played at any moment.”
Allen said he’s using the spring to “maximize the opportunity” after watching and learning from Scott, getting tutored from time to time. The best advice he received from Scott was perhaps not verbal but visual, specifically seeing how quickly Scott got the ball out of his hands. So he’ll attempt to do that.
“The spring is all about getting better, so that’s what I’ll try to do,” Allen said.
What he’ll do this spring, particularly after getting chided by Rodriguez for being a bit heavy, is try to keep his weight down.
Rodriguez joked at the beginning of the camp that he called Allen “Chubby” so often that it may have sunk in. Allen said he took it to heart and put it in the back of his head that he had to lose the weight.
Allen is now at 218 pounds and wants to lose about three more pounds. Anything to make the boss happy.
“Sometimes you get a little sensitive, but at the end of the day, you have to face the facts,” Allen said. “You have to get work out and get in shape.”